Seriously, how awful a name was Devil Rays?
Nobody except for marine biologists knew what the hell a Devil Ray was. And those who did associated it with a flat fish that was a bottom feeder.
OK, in one sense it is a decent name because it had a connection to local marine life. But seriously, even in the movie The Rookie, the kid asks “What’s a Devil Ray?” when Dennis Quaid is promoted to the majors.
Christian groups hated the fact that the word Devil was in the name because, well, that is what is important.
The team pictured above was the 2001 Devil Rays. Larry Rothschild, the original Tampa Bay manager started the season but was fired 14 games into the year. That always made me scratch my head. If a manager was so close to being fired 2 weeks into the season, then the organization knew he was on thin ice going into spring training.
Why not just start spring training with a new manager? It wasn’t like the team was a world beater. Or it wasn’t like new manager Hal McRae was going turn anything around.
They lost 100 games in 2001. Under McRae, they lost 106 games in 2002. Clearly Rothschild wasn’t the issue.
Lou Piniella took over the next year and the lost only 99, quite the improvement. Their greatest season in DEVIL Rays history was a 70-91 record in 2004. That was their answer to the 1927 Yankees.
Their average season as the Devil Rays was 64 wins and 97 losses. Forget playoffs. Only once did they rise above last place.
Then came the name change. Sure it also coincided with the development of lots of talent and early draft picks. But the minute they became the Rays, they won 97 games and made it to the World Series. They made the playoffs several times after that.
Was the name change any part of it? Was changing their image from an obscure fish that lives at the bottom of a sandbar, eating whatever scraps it can find before burying itself in the muck the best image for a team? Or was the image of light peaking through the clouds and offering hope and a better day a lift for the team.
It certainly didn’t hurt.